To all hope’ful’ romantics

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There’s an inexplicable charm about all things old-fashioned. Vintage clothing, architecture and mannerisms. Then there is knee-buckling romance that steals the show.

Stuff they show you in mushy, heartbeat-skipping movies or scintillating words you devour in a timeless classic. Plots, actions and dialogues that mess with your head in ways unimaginable. And though you may think you have ‘grown out of it’ at a certain age, you never really have. Somewhere in the background there still hovers a floating universe with the perfect romance, enclosed in the perfect heart balloon. That’s what I realize when I see a 50-year-old woman smile with a coy ecstasy every time she sees the real deal. Not just love, but old-fashioned, boy-swooping-girl-off-her-feet giddy romance.

I love that woman’s smile. It speaks of love. It doesn’t speak of loss or regret. It speaks of a strange contentment with whatever form of love she found. It speaks of a shared history among millions of little girls who once dreamed of Prince Charming. And wrote their own version of a happy beginning and a happier middle – forever knowing that the end is never as important. It speaks of a woman’s innate desire to be loved to bits. It speaks of a realization that everyone has a different love story but an equally amazing one. It speaks of a lot of crazy in our over-imaginative heads.

I believe I’ll be that 50-year-old some day.


National Blog Posting Month - November 2014

I am participating in the National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) – November 2014. This is an awesome venture of Blogher.com. In their own words:

“Every November, thousands of bloggers commit to posting daily. But it’s about much more than getting that post up—it’s about community and connection. It’s also about honing your craft, challenging yourself, and taking your blog to the next level.”

I will write every day of November. This is my third post.

#NaBloPoMo – Day 3

Short Story: Spilt milk

‘Baba! Rida isn’t listening to me! She spilled all her milk. ‘ My son repeated himself almost four times but I couldn’t hear a word. Tears welled up as my children’s blurry faces screamed in front of me. Everything  was incoherent. As far as I was concerned, my world had stopped rotating. The sun refused to rise. And gravity had pulled a disappearing act.  Their mother, my beloved wife, was alone in the hospital, fighting a death sentence. And here I was, cleaning up spilt milk.

I dropped off the children at a distant relative’s house because my wife was in ICU. The city was humming with life. Whereas I felt as dead as an autumn leaf crushed under a heavy boot. Traffic was slower than usual. I saw happy pedestrians crossing the street. Mothers pushing their strollers with smiles of exasperation. The lights turned green and I didn’t budge. The car behind me didn’t honk. As if a sign from above, this little act showed respect for my feelings. Thinking that a rude honk could tear open a heart already on the verge of dying.  The world showed me sympathy. Their eyes brimming with pity. I didn’t like any of it. I didn’t want any of it.

My car pulled up in the crowded parking lot. At home I wanted nothing but to rush to the hospital. And now that I was here, my legs turned to steel. My hands became numb. I couldn’t move. The thick air inside the car gave off faint whiffs of my wife’s favorite perfume. I opened the dashboard and found her comb and her pink nail polish. I always made fun of her fetish for nail polish. Ever since the children, she never got time to put on nail polish while getting ready to go somewhere. Once the kids were buckled up in the car, she’d take it out of the dashboard and apply it on her hands and feet. Every time I made an abrupt stop, she’d give me her infamous look. Eyebrows furrowed, a suppressed smile and wide open black eyes that made me burst out laughing. Who in her right mind would put on nail polish in a moving car? Only she had a plausible answer for that. She always had an answer. Almost always.

I closed my eyes and pressed my forehead on the steering wheel. Faint sounds of ambulance sirens and voices bounced off my ears. Tears rolled down like lost streams of water with no ocean to merge into. I was a man. I was not supposed to cry uncontrollably. I was not supposed to shake with fear and bang my head against the bathroom mirror. I was not supposed to do a lot of things. Yet control was the first thing to disappear like soul from a dead body. I opened the door without looking and suddenly I heard a scream. I jumped out and saw a small, bald child crying at his bottle of chocolate milk spilled on the floor. ‘I am so sorry I should have looked before I opened the door.’  I bent down to help his mother clean up. She apologetically said it was not my fault, as if it was her fault her son was crying. The child was pale yellow like a wilting sunflower. My heart jumped as I saw his sorrowful eyes. I could have done anything for those eyes. After cleaning up I asked the mother if her son was all right. ‘Nothing a little medicine won’t cure, right Sam?’ She lovingly hugged her son, but her eyes betrayed the truth. He was far from ‘all right’. But she was with him and maybe that’s all that mattered.

I went back into the car and took out my wife’s nail polish. I felt a bit better. What perfect timing as I smiled looking up at the feeble ray of sunshine peaking through overpowering clouds. Maybe the child’s pain made it acceptable for me to lessen my pain. As if his anguish sucked in some of mine. I pressed the elevator button and made a solemn prayer to God. To give me the strength to make her smile. To give me the ability to be the best father. To give me the power to make every minute of our lives matter.

 

** This story is inspired by a true incident. I hope and pray that Allah gives health and strength to the concerned family. I also pray for cancer patients and their families suffering all over the world. Only Allah can give them the needed strength to fight such a monster. Amen. **

 

 

 

 

When my life was a big fat adventure

Writing 101 prompt – Day 11: Tell us about the home where you lived when you were twelve. Which town, city, or country? Was it a house or an apartment? A boarding school or foster home? An airstream or an RV? Who lived there with you? Today’s twist: pay attention to your sentence lengths and use short, medium, and long sentences as you compose your response about the home you lived in when you were twelve.

Going back to when I was twelve years old. Now that’s a heartwarming, skin-tingling thought. Year 1995 to be exact. City was the ever beautiful and rustic, Quetta (Pakistan). We were in the Army cantonment, the famous Command and Staff College. A hub of Pakistan army’s most brilliant minds at work. Our street name – Sahibzad Gul Road, named after a prominent Army general. It was the fanciest name I had ever heard. Our house was huge with an untamed, unfenced lawn that spread out towards the back and on to vast spans of land.A long winded driveway extended from the front gate to the house entrance. Outside the house was breathtaking. Architecture was in fact from the British ruling days. Inside, it was a different story.

My mom almost cried when she entered the house for the first time. It was the most rundown house on the street. I wasn’t too bothered with its rickety condition. I had other things to worry about. Making Friends. Who was to know! I was to make my closest and oldest friends there. A few of my bestest (this just says it so much better!) friends to date are the ones I made in Quetta. We didn’t have or need the term BFF back then. We had the real thing.

We were adaptable folk. All army families had to be. No two ways about that. One year you were indulging yourself in a developed country playing double dutch, eating ice cream sandwiches and prancing about in Disney Land. The next year it was a remote but heavenly city of Pakistan called Skardu, where bare necessities were hard to come by. When you’ve had an ugly coal heater resembling a 1950’s space shuttle, with a huge pipe placed at the dead center of your bedroom, you can’t possibly complain about anything. Ever. So the house in Quetta was not a big deal. We quickly fell in love with its twisted architecture, its sky-kissed ceilings and its cold concrete that went on to give us the warmest and most loving years of our lives.

Life inside the cantonment had everything a child would want. And more. Our school (Iqra Army Public school) was in a league of its own – years ahead of its time in our country. We had music classes, sports like softball, netball, badminton, tennis, athletics; cultural and dramatic activities; field trips. Our principal, Sir James Last was Australian. I still remember his hawk-like gaze that was enough to keep everything and everyone in line. Outside school we had an equally exciting life. Riding. Swimming. Sailing. Marathons. Hiking adventures. Cycling. Huge birthday parties. Playing in the streets till sunset. No one cared where we were off exploring or playing because that’s how safe it all was. Studying was there somewhere I think, hidden beneath piles of FUN. Army life in cantonments is essentially a social setup that involves a lot of family gatherings, excursions and events. So when the children weren’t creating havoc on the streets, we were spending quality time with our families.

An endless vacation. The adventure never stopped. Never ever.

Feelings of love, anger, hope, fantasy, thrill, pride, competition; all slowly seeped into my existence and I didn’t even know it. All that exposure played a huge role in shaping the person I am today. I could write an entire book on this. The friends I made, the people I met, everything that I learned. But this will have to do for now. Oh how I love you Quetta….

Me and My Baba

Me and Baba

Me and My Baba

Fathers and daughters –  a royal bond. Almost like the queen in a game of chess, standing out from the rest as something intriguing, something powerful, something special.

Looking back, I have many reasons to celebrate my relationship with my baba (father). In so many little or big moments that take turns warming up my heart. Moments that I keep safe in my mind, like a possessive collector. Moments that are majestic only because they are about me and my baba.

Baba, I know you will be one of my first readers here. You have been my most enthusiastic and loyal fan. I am no way near the writer you think me to be. But your encouragement is all I need to take on the world. I have many memories of us together.  I am surprised I remember, since memory isn’t my strongest suit. And like you, I am not good with the spoken word. Writing comes more naturally. So today I am going to write some of my most precious memories of us together. Just you and me.

You remember how you could never scold me? I loved taking advantage of that. On the face of it I’d freak out like any typical hormonal teenager but inside, I knew it was only a matter of time before you burst out laughing; an embarrassed, hearty laugh that made you turn red. Then I’d end up laughing. So your laugh invariably saved me from what could have been many ‘go-to-my-room-and-slam-the-door’ incidents.

You have always expressed love in a quirky way. You didn’t give me big hugs or cuddle me as a child. You’d pull my cheeks. Your favorite name for me was fluffy cheeks.  The only reaction it got was my sulky pout. Now it only makes me smile. Over the years, cheek pulling transformed into something else. You’d put your finger on my dimpled cheek and give me a slight poke. To this day, this is my favorite ‘hug’.

You’d stop me from overeating or junk-food, not by telling me straight on, but by joking about it or teasing me to a point where I’d feel like banging my head on the wall. You knew me too well because that always did the trick. I guess this bonding isn’t complete until a daughter sulks at something her father says and then expects him to make her feel better.My 20-month old daughter already does that with her dad!

Your love for books and written prowess are two things I will always be proud of. You were the smartest kid in school and college. People wondered how you did it all because you were always playing sports and never studying.  I often wondered too. I love calling you a human dictionary. There is not a word you don’t know the meaning of. And the best part is, the only help I got from you was, “Look it up in the dictionary yourself!”. A hereditary trait that I will love torturing my children with.

I remember a trip we took to Murree soon after my graduation. A time when I needed a breather from my life. It was a memorable drive, with blaring loud and annoying Bollywood music that you never told me to turn off.  I had time to think about what I was doing, where I was going in my life. Even your silence comforted me, guided me. And by the time mama and my brother joined us, I was as good as new. A couple of months before I got married, I used to go with you for your morning walks. You loved them, still do. That is one of my happiest memories of us together. Another time, during my first pregnancy, I was housebound on doctor’s orders. My mood swings were at an all time high. You again came to the rescue baba. You took me out of home, drove me to a book store and what do you know! I was as good as new.

You taught me to be honest and upright. You taught me to never be impressed by false status or money. But to always be in awe of intelligence and ability. You taught me never to be stingy or unnecessarily worrisome. You taught me to go with the flow and to take it easy. You taught me the power of books. You taught me never to cheat – people, work or your country. You taught me all of this not by lecturing, but by doing.

Remember how you felt for an entire year after I got married? Every time I’d come to visit, you would just look at me with sad eyes. That was the first time I realized how much you missed me. Sitting in the car, waving goodbye, all I remember are your watery eyes and forced smile. One time I even cried on my way back because I saw how much you and mama missed me. And to think I was in the same city! That’s why I never wanted to go away. But you and mama made us apply for immigration. You made us go continents away for our betterment. Your foresight helped us make a great future here. But that doesn’t change that you and mama are sitting so far away from your children and grandchildren.

I miss my special hug. I miss sulking over something you teased me about. I miss your joyous laugh as you greeted your grandchildren with open arms. I miss how you spoiled me all my life and how you now spoil your grandchildren. I miss how you scolded me about junk food and now with your grandchildren you can’t tell the difference. I miss how, after every other week, you came home with a new stash of best sellers. I miss how you’d get upset when I’d make fun of your endless morning sneezes. I miss your laugh when I’d imitate how you read a book before going to bed.

I am glad I wrote all this down. But there is more. Maybe I will keep adding it all here. Nothing like the written word to breathe immortality into a precious memory.

See you soon bopsy!